There is a little voice in my head that every now and then peeps out and makes me doubt myself. She is insistent and annoying, she creeps into my thoughts and doesn’t stop having her say. It comes when I least expect it and he is keen to point out that everything I have achieved has nothing to do with my abilities. You are not good enough, he tells me, the goals you have reached are only the result of circumstances and sooner or later people will realize it.
Over time I have discovered that I am not the only one to hear this voice, and above all that it has a name: impostor syndrome. No, it is not a disease or a genetic condition, it is a phenomenon that unites many people, especially women, and makes them feel like impostors, precisely, architects of intellectual fraud, that they are deceiving others about their abilities, and that the merits that are attributed to them are totally unfounded.
As a woman with disabilities in my life I have often come across prejudice. This fueled my impostor syndrome a lot. I constantly live in the doubt that my every career achievement, every step forward, is somehow due to me, that be granted to me out of compassion, and this prevents me from fully enjoying my successes.
Nonetheless, society is responsible for feeding the impostor syndrome. The tendency of women to underestimate themselves derives in part from a culture that it has always conveyed the inadequacy of the female gender in work contexts. According to the research He’s Skilled, She’s Lucky: A Meta-Analysis of Observers’ Attributions for Women’s and Men’s Successes and Failures, by Janet Swim and Lawrence J. Sanna, people tend to attribute men’s successes more to their skills, while women’s successes to luck. Being a woman means being aware that higher standards are demanded of us on professions where the evaluation should be purely objective. Furthermore, not only is the bar higher, but we are being pushed to demonstrate our competence in ways rarely required of men. All this feeds the impostor syndrome, which manifests itself in the feeling of never be enough.
There are many women who live in fear of judgment and who experience this constant sense of guilt, like Florencia Di Stefano-Abichain, who treasured her experience with the impostor syndrome, making the book I thought it was me … instead it’s the impostor syndrome, how to transform the sense of inadequacy into our best ally, published by Vallardi and out on 21 October.
“The fear of being unmasked, the terror of never being up to par, of not deserving anything have been with me for thirty years”, writes Di Stefano-Abichain, who through his book tries to convey what he has learned, how manage and live with these feelings that often paralyze us and they do not make us rejoice in the goals.
I haven’t found a solution to the impostor syndrome yet, but I’m learning to deal with it. Perhaps the secret lies in the bring out these fears, look them in the face, do not keep them closed within us. If we all learned to talk about it, we would realize that we are not alone in swimming in this sea of insecurities.